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Aquila and Priscilla, or Priscilla and Aquila: the Oneness of Marriage in the Lord

M C Davis, Leeds


In Acts and the Epistles of Paul Aquila and Priscilla are presented to us as the model Christian married couple. From them we, today, can learn much about what Christian marriage should be like. Their names are given in either order, such was their oneness. Aquila, at least, was a native of Pontus in Asia Minor who had been expelled as a Jew from Rome by Claudius Caesar. He and his wife settled in Corinth, where Paul first found them (Acts 18.2). Then they accompanied Paul to Ephesus (Acts 18.19). We next read of them back in Rome (Rom 16.3). The last reference to them in 2 Timothy 4.19 may indicate that at the time of Paul’s death they were in Ephesus again. They clearly had a somewhat unsettled life, but wherever they were living they fully identified themselves with the local Christian assembly regardless of the cost to themselves. What a testimony and example to us today!

One in the Lord

It is unclear when Aquila and Priscilla became Christians, whether before or after meeting Paul, but what is clear is that they both equally acknowledged the absolute Lordship of Christ over every part of their lives. This is essential in Christian marriage. It is not sufficient that our marriage partner is a professing, or even a true, believer, but that they, like us, are fully committed to the worship and daily service of the Lord Jesus Christ. He must come before our spouse at all times and in every way. By mutual agreement Christ must have our "first love" (Rev 2.4).

One in Married Life

As Christian marriage partners Aquila and Priscilla were inseparable. Neither of them is mentioned without the other. The order in which their names occur is interesting. Usually, the order is Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18.26, RV). This may merely be contemporary courtesy, putting the fair sex first, or it may indicate that Priscilla was the more intelligent, nobly-born, or naturally dominant of the two. In Paul’s letters her name is twice affectionately shortened to Prisca (Rom 16.3, ESV; 2 Tim 4.19). Aquila’s name in Latin means "eagle", while Priscilla’s is a diminutive meaning "little old woman". Probably the couple were childless. However, there was clearly complete harmony of body, mind, soul, and spirit between them - surely, an example to Christian couples today!

One in Daily Occupation

As Jews, Aquila and Priscilla had in their youth been taught a practical trade to enable them to make an independent living. Even in this they were one; for they were both tentmakers. They plied their trade wherever they went. Paul was drawn to them initially because he also was a tentmaker by trade. For over eighteen months the three of them worked together while Paul preached the gospel in Corinth and established the local assembly there. Yes, our secular occupation can be a very useful handmaid to the Lord’s work where we live. However, it must always remain subservient to the Lord’s interests and never become an all-consuming life ambition in itself. Certainly, although Aquila and Priscilla worked very diligently to make a living, their united priorities always lay in the furtherance of the Lord’s work and supporting the Lord’s servants. What are our priorities in daily life and occupation?

One in Hospitality

Sharing with others the homes God has given us, whether grand or very humble, is a spiritual ministry everywhere enjoined upon Christian married couples. In this grace of generous hospitality Aquila and Priscilla excelled wherever they travelled. Theirs was clearly what is sometimes called "an open home", where all the Lord’s people, high-born or lowly-born, were welcome. When they lived in Ephesus, and then in Rome again, they opened their home to the local assembly despite the obvious risk of persecution this involved (1 Cor 16.19; Rom 16.3-5). No doubt, interested unbelievers were also welcomed there and heard the message of the gospel warmly and lovingly explained to them. Paul was invited to use their home as his base throughout his extended gospel campaigns in Corinth and Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla’s home was not a palace kept selfishly from others, but a workshop used unselfishly for God and His interests. What is our home like?

One in Spiritual Discernment

This godly Christian couple had the unique privilege of sharing their home for several years with the most gifted apostle to the Gentiles, cooperating with him in his ministry, and undoubtedly learning much spiritual truth from him in the process. They both developed a keen spiritual discernment of true and false doctrine from Paul. This later enabled them to help a good brother in the Lord, Apollos, whose knowledge of divine truth was in some ways deficient. While Apollos was very gifted and dedicated to God, he did not know some of the essential truths of the Christian faith - nothing, it seems, beyond the truth of John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila had listened to him for a while they rightly discerned his problem and decided to help him become fully enlightened in the faith they shared in Christ (Acts 18.24-28). Do we today similarly try to help those whose understanding of divine truth is deficient, rather than openly criticising, or simply dismissing, them?

One in Instructing the Lord’s Servants

The scene which followed in the couple’s home is both delightful and very instructive. They took him aside privately, and, probably over a meal, "explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18.26, ESV). Priscilla evidently helped her husband instruct Apollos in their home, thus indicating that in a home setting a godly sister can rightly teach even a prominent and gifted servant of the Lord, something she cannot do in the local assembly. Apollos, for his part, proved to be very humble and teachable, undoubtedly very grateful to his new-found friends for their enlightening ministry. The result was that he soon went on to other regions with full assembly commendation and was greatly used in the Lord’s service. This was all due to the loving, gracious, and fully-enlightened instruction of Priscilla and Aquila. Theirs, unlike his, was not public, platform, ministry, but nevertheless just as vital and effective. An encouragement to us today surely!

One in Self-Sacrificial Service

In Romans 16.3-4 Paul sends greetings to "Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well" (ESV). Priscilla and Aquila were quite self-forgetful and sacrificial in their united devoted service to the Lord and His people. It was very dangerous to be a committed Christian in their days, as it still is in some countries of the world today, but before the Lord they were both fully prepared to face the self-sacrifice involved in their loving ministry of helping the early Christian assemblies. Are we as unitedly committed to serving our Lord as they were? Early church tradition, which can often be believed, records that they did ultimately die as martyrs for their faith in Christ, united in their deaths just as much as in their fragrant lives. What an abundant entrance they will have into Christ’s everlasting Kingdom! Will ours be similar?

Concluding Challenge

For the present evil age, which both dismisses marriage as unnecessary and frequently violates or perverts it, Aquila and Priscilla stand as a convincing united witness to all the good that a loving and responsible marriage in the Lord can do in a sinful world to uphold the testimony of Christ. Such godly unions have always been essential to the growth and protection of Christian assemblies down the age of grace. Are our marriages today like theirs? Is there evident in them to the ungodly world around us a similar oneness of life, love, and devotion to Christ that Priscilla and Aquila so abundantly displayed? A godly married life is a most powerful proof of the reality of all Christian life and faith, since it is a reflection of the perfect relationship between Christ and the Church, His own Body and Bride. What is our witness as married couples like? Do we in any way measure up to the example of Aquila and Priscilla?



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